Wednesday Oct 31, 2012

What's new at Oracle in Gamification?

It's been a crazy few weeks in Apps UX.  We are actively working on some gamification designs in now 4 different application product areas, as well as supporting some teams in other areas of Oracle.  Since that gets to be a pretty diverse group with a lot of resources and ideas, we've started a group in the Oracle Social Network on Gamification at Oracle.  That's limited to internal users at Oracle, but if you are interested in joining,  ping me directly for more information at

We're planning another design jam like we did here at Oracle in May and at the Enterprise Gamification Forum in San Diego in September.  This time, we're taking the show to the UK, and hosting it with a group of customers on the Oracle Usability Advisory Board.  It should be a great event!  

We're also actively designing some gamified flows which we'll be testing with users at the UKOUG to see what our customers think about some of our gamification ideas. We're looking at more feedback opportunities.  Internally, we surveyed 444 folks within Oracle about gamification and we'll be posting some of our findings on that here soon.

 I'll be posting a blog on gamification for our customers at  in the next few weeks and I'll cross-post to here when it comes out.

 So even though it's been quiet on this blog, we are busy and I'm hoping to push out more content in the next few weeks!  Would love to know what's most interesting to the folks reading so if there's something you especially want to see, feel free to comment or email me about it.

Monday Oct 08, 2012

Gamification at OOW

Last week was Oracle OpenWorld, and for those of you not in tech or downtown San Francisco, that might not mean a whole lot.  However, if you are familiar with it, Oracle OpenWorld is our premier customer event.  This year, more than 50,000 people attended.  It's not a good week to visit San Francisco on vacation because Oracle customers take over all the hotels in town!  It was crazy, but a lot of fun and it's a great opportunity for the Apps UX group to do customer research with a range of customers.  This year, more than 100+ customers and partners took the time to team up with our UX experts and provide feedback on new designs and ideas. Over three days,  UX teams conducted 8  one-on-one user feedback sessions, 4 focus groups and 7 surveys. In addition, we conducted a voice capture activity and were able to collect close to 70 speech samples at the lab and DEMOgrounds.

This was a great opportunity for us to do some testing on some specific gamification concepts with a set of business analysts.  We pulled in 8 folks for a focus group on gamification concepts and whether they thought those would work for their teams.

Working the focus group at OOW

To get ready for this, my designer extraordinaire, Andrea Cantú, flew into town and we spent almost a week locked in a room together brainstorming design ideas.  We killed a few trees trying to get all of our concepts and other examples together in the process, but in the end, we put together a whole series of examples of how you might gamify an Oracle app (in this case, CRM).  Andrea is a genius for this kind of thing and the comps she created looked great.  Here's a picture of her hard at work! 

We also had the good fortune to have my boss, Laurie Pattison and my usability contractor, Shobana Subramanian there to note take and observe as well.  Here's a few shots of us, hard at work preparing for the day (or checking out something on Laurie's iPhone...)

To start things off, we gave an overview of gamification and I talked about what it's used for.  Then we gave the participants a scenario about our sales person and what we were trying to get her to do. It was a great opportunity to highlight what our business goals might be and why we might want to add game mechanics.  It was also a good way to get them thinking about how that might work for them in their environments and workplaces.

There were some surprises for the day.  We asked how many of them were already familiar with the concept of gamification--only two people had heard of it and only one was using game mechanics in his work.  That's in contrast to a survey we just ran internally with folks in a dev org where almost 50% of about 450 respondents had heard of gamification.  As we discussed the ways game mechanics could be used, it became clear that many of the folks had seen some game mechanics in action but didn't know that's what they were.  We also noticed that the folks in this group felt that if they were trying to sell the concept in their orgs, they wouldn't call it gamification.  That's not a huge surprise to me--they said what we've heard in the past, that gamification does not seem like a serious term for enterprise software.  They said they'd sell it with the goals--as a means to increase behaviors by rewarding users for activities.  It's a funny problem.  The word puts some folks off, but at the same time, I haven't seen another one word description that quite captures the range of things that "gamification" can cover.  My guess is that the more mainstream the term becomes, the more desensitized we'll become to the idea the it's trivializing enterprise software in some way.  Still, it was interesting to note that this group still felt that they would not take this concept to their bosses or teams and call it "gamification".  They focused on the goals, and how we could incentivize desired behaviors with game mechanics.  As I have already stated in other posts, I feel like my org is more receptive to discussing how this is just a more transparent type of usability and user experience methods than talking about gamification.  That's the argument they said they would use.

All in all, it was a good session.  I love getting to talk to customers, present ideas and concepts, and get their feedback and input.  It's the type of thing that really helps drive our designs and keeps us grounded in what our customers need/want.  We're already planning where to get more feedback opportunities in the coming months. 

Wednesday Sep 26, 2012

Gamification in the enterprise updates, September edition

Things have been a little busy here at GamifyOracle.  Last week, I attended a small conference in San Diego on Enterprise Gamification.  Mario Herger of SAP, Matt Landes of Google and I were on a panel discussion about how to introduce and advocate gamification in your organization.  I gave a talk as well as a workshop on gamification.  The workshop was a new concept, to take our Design Jam from Applications User Experience and try it with people outside of user experience.  I have to say, the whole thing was a great success, in great part because I had some expert help from Teena Singh from Apps UX.  We took a flow from expense reporting and created a scenario about sales reps who are on the road a lot and how we needed them to get their expense reports filed by the end of the fiscal year.  We divided the attendees into groups and gave them a little over two hours to work out how they might use game mechanics to gamify the flows.  

We even took the opportunity to re-use the app our fab dev team in our Mexico Development Center put together to gamify the event including badges, points, prizes and a leaderboard. 

Since I am a firm believer that you can't gamify everything (or at least, not everything well), I focused my talk prior to the workshop on when it works, and when it might not, including pitfalls to gamifying badly.  I was impressed that the teams all considered what might go wrong with gamifying expenses and built into their designs some protections against that.  I can't wait to take this concept on the road again, it really was a fun day.

Now that we have gotten through that set of events, we're wildly working on our next project for next week.  I'm doing a focus group at Oracle OpenWorld on Gamification in the Enterprise.  To do that, Andrea Cantu and I are trying to kill as many trees as possible while we work out some gamification concepts to present (see proof below!).  It should be a great event and I'm hoping we learn a lot about what our customers think about the use of gamification in their companies and in the products they use.

So that's the news so far from GamifyOracle land.  I'll try to get more out about those events and more after next week. And if you will be at OOW, ping me and we can discuss in person!  I'd love to know what everyone is thinking in the area.

Friday Sep 07, 2012


Picking up where we left off, let's summarize.  People have both intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation, and whether reward works depends a bit on what you are rewarding.  Rewards don't decreased intrinsic motivation provided you know what you are getting and why, and when you reward high performance.  But as anyone who has watched the great animation of Dan Pink's TED talk knows, even that doesn't tell the whole story.  Although people may not be less intrinsically motivated by rewards, the impact of rewards on actual performance is a really odd questions.  Larger rewards don't necessarily lead to better performance and in fact, some times lead to worse performance.  Pink argues that people are driven and engaged when they have autonomy, mastery and purpose.  If they can self-direct and can be good at what they do and have a sense of purpose for what they are doing, they show the highest engagement.   (Personally, I would add progress to the list.  My experience is that if you have autonomy, mastery and a sense of purpose but don't get a feeling that you are making any progress day to day, your level of engagement will drop rapidly.)

So Pink is arguing if we could set up work so that people have a sense of purpose in what they do, have some autonomy and the ability to build mastery, you'll have better companies.  And that's probably true in a lot of ways, but there's a problem.  Sometimes, you have things you need to do but maybe you don't really want to do.  Or that you don't really see the point of.  Or that doesn't have a lot of value to you at the end of the day.  Then what does a company do?

 Let me give you an example.  I've worked on some customer relationship management (CRM) tools over the years and done user research with sales people to try and understand their world.  And there's a funny thing about sales tools in CRM.  Sometimes what the company wants a sales person to do is at odds with what a sales person thinks is useful to them.  For example, companies would like to know who a sales person talked to at the company and the person level.  They'd like to know what they talked about, when, and whether the deals closed.  Those metrics would help you build a better sales force and understand what works and what does not.  But sales people see that as busy work that doesn't add any value to their ability to sell.  So you have a sales person who has a lot of autonomy, they like to do things that improve their ability to sell and they usually feel a sense of purpose--the group is trying to make a quota!  That quota will help the company succeed!  But then you have tasks that they don't think fit into that equation.  The company would like to know more about what makes them successful and get metrics on what they do and frankly, have a record of what they do in case they leave, but the sales person thinks it's a waste of time to put all that information into a sales application.

They have drive, just not for all the things the company would like.  

You could punish them for not entering the information, or you could try to reward them for doing it, but you still have an imperfect model of engagement.  Ideally, you'd like them to want to do it.  If they want to do it, if they are motivated to do it, then the company wins.  If *something* about it is rewarding to them, then they are more engaged and more likely to do it.  So the question becomes, how do you create that interest to do something?

Monday Aug 27, 2012

Going to Oracle OpenWorld?

Anyone planning to be at Oracle OpenWorld?  We're looking for Business Analysts who might be interested in participating in a Gamification Focus Group.  If you are interested in participating, please contact Gozel Aamoth at
We'd love to get folks interested in the topic to participate. There are also a number of other opportunities to give our Applications User Experience team some feedback on designs and concepts outside gamification.

Thursday Aug 16, 2012

Enterprise Gamification Conference on September 19-21 in San Diego

In September, I'll be presenting a workshop and doing a talk at the Enterprise Gamification Conference in San Diego.  They have a good group of speakers lined up and it should be a good event.  I have a line on a deal for admission if anyone is interested.  If you contact Michael Perlowitz directly (call 212-885-2796 or email, you can get the registration fee dropped to $399 for the main conference or $999 for the conference and workshops (one from Mario Herger and one from me).  It would be great to see folks there who read the blog!

Friday Aug 03, 2012

Knowing your user is key--Part 2: Motivation

A bit of a lag in posts--I was vacationing in Maine and although I was thinking about where to go next on the blog post, I didn't actually get around to writing anything. I know, slacker.

Picking up on the theme of motivation, let's talk a little bit more about specific things that motivate people.  Here's the funny thing about intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic motivation.  If you aren't careful, you can take something that people find intrinsically motivating (that is, they just think it's fun) and you can suck the fun out of it by adding an extrinsic motivation like a reward.  There are a variety of studies on this going back to the 1970's (see classic articles like this one by E L Deci or by Lepper & Greene).  Here's the classic example.  You take a group of children who have been identified as liking to read and you divide them into two groups.  One group gets told the more you read, the more we will give you a reward, like $1 per book.  The other group doesn't get told this (or in another study, only gets an unexpected reward later).  After a while, you measure the number of books the kids are reading and you see that the kids you gave a buck a book are reading LESS than the kids who didn't get anything or didn't expect anything.  You took something they liked to do and attached a reward and they stopped doing it.  The suggestion is that if you take something like reading, which they were doing for pleasure and make it about doing it for money, they stop enjoying reading for its own sake and when the money isn't something they care about anymore, they stop reading.  On the other hand, if you take a third group of kids who don't like reading and give them a reward, their reading behavior increases.  They aren't doing it for the fun of it, but you can give them an incentive that will increase the amount they read. 

The story of course, is never quite that simple and since the 1970's, psychologists and economists have come to realize it's not quite that easy.  There are a lot of nuances to when extrinsic rewards work or don't.  If you follow Deci and Ryan's 1985 cognitive evaluation theory, anything that leads to a perception of self-determination or of competence will increase intrinsic motivation, while anything that decrease those perceptions will also decrease intrinsic motivation.  Eisenberger, Pierce and Cameron (1999) did a nice meta-analysis of the studies on the effects of reward on motivation and concluded that rewards for things that require minimal performance or are not well defined decrease intrinsic motivation, probably because they convey to the person that the task is trivial.  However, if the task requires high performance, it conveys that it is important and rewards actually increase intrinsic motivation.  Basically, if you reward trivial tasks, people catch on, and they lose any intrinsic motivation they might have had.  That could have a real implication in gamification.  If you reward people for pointless things, they lose interest and can even be really turned off by it.  My own personal example of where pointless badges are an epic fail is the Google News Badges--Techcrunch summed it up nicely in this piece.  (You can read up on a lot of Deci's work here if you want to see how that theory has morphed over time into the self-determination theory.) 

So where does this lead?  In part, I think to the conclusion that if you are not clear what gets you rewarded, you won't increase that behavior and if you reward trivial tasks, you can decrease intrinsic motivation.  People are driven by a lot of things, and it's important to understand what motivates them.  But if you want reward to work, you need to clearly tie it to the behavior you want and you need to expect high performance.  I'll go more into drive theory on the next post, but what we're building up to is how all of this plays into the use of gamification in enterprise software.  Lots of psychology behind how we get to this point!

Thursday Jul 05, 2012

Knowing your user is key--Part 1: Motivation

I was thinking where the best place to start in this blog would be and finally came back to a theme that I think is pretty critical--successful gamification in the enterprise comes down to knowing your user.  Lots of folks will say that gamification is about understanding that everyone is a gamer.  But at least in my org, that argument won't play for a lot of people.  Pun intentional.  It's not that I don't see the attraction to the idea--really, very few people play no games at all.  If they don't play video games, they might play solitaire on their computer.  They may play card games, or some type of sport.  Mario Herger has some great facts on how much game playing there is going on at his website.

But at the end of the day, I can't sell that into my organization well.  We are Oracle.  We make big, serious software designed run your whole business.  We don't make Angry Birds out of your financial reporting tools.  So I stick with the argument that works better.  Gamification techniques are really just good principals of user experience packaged a little differently.  Feedback?  We already know feedback is important when using software.  Progress indicators?  Got that too.  Game mechanics may package things in a more explicit way but it's not really "new".  To know how to use game mechanics, and what a user experience team is important for, is totally understanding who our users are and what they are motivated by.

For several years, I taught college psychology courses, including Motivation.  Motivation is generally broken down into intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.  There's intrinsic, which comes from within the individual.  And there's extrinsic, which comes from outside the individual.  Intrinsic motivation is that motivation that comes from just a general sense of pleasure in the doing of something.  For example, I like to cook.  I like to cook a lot.  The kind of cooking I think is just fun makes other people--people who don't like to cook--cringe.  Like the cake I made this week--the star-spangled rhapsody from The Cake Bible: two layers of meringue, two layers of genoise flavored with a raspberry eau de vie syrup, whipped cream with berries and a mousseline buttercream, also flavored with raspberry liqueur and topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries.

I love cooking--I ask for cooking tools for my birthday and Christmas, I take classes like sushi making and knife skills for fun.  I like reading about you can make an emulsion of egg yolks, melted butter and lemon, cook slowly and transform them into a sauce hollandaise (my use of all the egg yolks that didn't go into the aforementioned cake).  And while it's nice when people like what I cook, I don't do it for that.  I do it because I think it's fun.  My former boss, Ultan Ó Broin, loves to fish in the sea off the coast of Ireland.  Not because he gets prizes for it, or awards, but because it's fun.  To quote a note he sent me today when I asked if having been recently ill kept him from the beginning of mackerel season, he told me he had already been out and said "I can fish when on a deathbed" (read more of Ultan's work, see his blogs on User Assistance and Translation.). That's not the kind of intensity you get about something you don't like to do.  I'm sure you can think of something you do just because you like it.

So how does that relate to gamification?  Gamification in the enterprise space is about uncovering the game within work.  Gamification is about tapping into things people already find motivating.  But to do that, you need to know what that user is motivated by. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is one of those areas where over-the-top gamification seems to work (not to plug a competitor in this space, but you can search on what Bunchball* has done with a company just a little north of us on 101 for the CRM crowd).  Sales people are naturally competitive and thrive on that plus recognition of their sales work.  You can use lots of game mechanics like leaderboards and challenges and scorecards with this type of user and they love it.  Show my whole org I'm leading in sales for the quarter?  Bring it on!  However, take the average accountant and show how much general ledger activity they have done in the last week and expose it to their whole org on a leaderboard and I think you'd see a lot of people looking for a new job.  Why?  Because in general, accountants aren't extraverts who thrive on competition in their work.  That doesn't mean there aren't game mechanics that would work for them, but they won't be the same game mechanics that work for sales people.  It's a different type of user and they are motivated by different things.

To break this up, I'll stop here and post now.  I'll pick this thread up in the next post. Thoughts? Questions?

*Disclosure: To my knowledge, Oracle has no relationship with Bunchball at this point in time.

Sunday Jul 01, 2012

Welcome to the Gamification Blog!


If you are here, you have probably been hearing about gamification and game mechanics, and wondering how it all fits into the enterprise space.  Although I've been leading some efforts in the Fusion Apps UX team on gamification for a while, I have left it to a couple of others to blog on it.  For example, check out the links below from Ultan Ó Broin if you haven't seen these already:

#gamifyOracle: Oracle Applications Gamification Worldwide #UX Design Jam

Oracle Applications UX Gamification Worldwide All Hands Day

Gamification, Schamification: Reality Isn't Broken. Your User Experience Is

I've been tweeting to #GamifyOracle for a while but I'll try to use this blog to put a little of my own thoughts on the matter together.  In the meantime, I spoke at the GSummit in June on the things we're working on and I'll be leading a workshop and speaking on Enterprise Gamification at the Enterprise Gamification Summit in September.  Oracle peeps, let me know if you are interested in attending, since we can get a group discount for the workshop/summit.  We're also planning to conduct some more research on gamification in the enterprise space at Oracle OpenWorld this October. 

In the meantime, let me know if there are issues you are interested in and I'll try to put some things together here.  I'd love to know who all is working on gamification in Oracle--I know some of you but I'm sure there are others!


All things gamification, mostly focused on the Enterprise space but occasionally on other issues related to gamification. Thoughts are my own.


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